In 2012, they will struggle to catch the Pidgeon - Olympics - Sport - The Independent

In 2012, they will struggle to catch the Pidgeon

Cheltenham high-flier has sights set on Olympic glory and there is big money riding on her – but she takes the pressure in her stride

Cheltenham , renowned for its thoroughbreds, currently boasts a fleet-footed filly who is chasing not so much a Gold Cup as a gold medal. Although Emily Pidgeon has done her share of steeple-chasing, her forte is the flat, but she'll be the first to admit that in her early athletics career she had a few hurdles to overcome in her pursuit of being first past the post in the 2012 Olympic Stakes.

A product of Cheltenham Ladies College – her family home is in the Cotswolds spa town – she is earmarked by the bookies as a possible front-runner for the 10,000 metres after a local punter placed a sizeable bet on her at odds of 200-1 five years ago.

So, no pressure then for the psychology student who has emerged from a 13-year-old schoolgirl cross-country prodigy to become one of Britain's most precocious running talents, the lass tipped most likely to step into Paula Radcliffe's running shoes.

But pressure is something this fledgling Paula takes in her elegant stride. She has had it for much of a career pockmarked by an early fractious relationship with UK Athletics over their central contracts policy, which her father Stephen refused to allow her to sign – ruling her out of Lottery funding – and an acrimonious split with early coach John Farrow. "I thought long and hard about it and of course I was worried I might regret it. There were tears for a week or so but afterwards I felt a changed person. There are no regrets. I'm glad I did it."

That, she says, is all behind her now. There has been a rapprochement with the governing body – against whom the Pidgeons successfully fought a sex discrimination case when she was 13 and was refused entry to a 3,000m event when boys of that age were allowed. And things are going swimmingly at Loughborough University under her new coach, John Nuttall.

Her talents began to shine through at school. "I used to do sprints but I was hopeless, so it was obvious to me that cross-country was clearly my strength. When I ran as a 14-year-old for GB against Italy I came second against girls who were four or five years older. When I was 15, I went to the World Cross-Country Championships where I came 20th, which was pretty good, and from then on it got better and better."

Cross-country is not an Olympic event so she has been concentrating on the 5,000m (she was European junior champion in 2005) while also eyeing the 10,000 and eventually the marathon – à la Radcliffe. She has done three 10km runs on the road but never a marathon. "To run long distances is not only hard work but there is a lot of physiology involved and you also have to have it mentally. It's quite tough at the moment because I have so much work on at university and you have to be really disciplined but to be honest my running comes first. I do my other work around that."

Being compared to Radcliffe in her teens was "very flattering", she says, "but my parents kept me grounded". The youngest-ever distance runner to be picked for a GB representative team, she won the European junior 5,000m title and holds the British Under-15 and Under-17 3,000m records, as well as junior 2,000m and 3,000m steeplechase records. She was a bronze medallist in the 2007 Junior European Championships and finished 17th in the World Cross-Country Championships in 2007, the second-placed British and European runner. Last year she was a member of the victorious British cross-country team in the Junior European Championships.

Pidgeon, just 20, lists interests outside athletics as shopping and films. "I don't have that much of a social life as I am not really a normal student because of my running. In fact it seems to be all revision and running at the moment." She says in 2012 she plans to concentrate on the 10,000m but after that she will take the marathon route, following in Radcliffe's footsteps. Two years ago she went to South Africa and trained with Zola Budd. "We were able to compare notes because she had quite a difficult relationship with her old coach too. She's a lovely person, quite normal and unspoiled. She was very helpful with training tips and quite a lot of stuff I was doing was quite similar to her former routine."

But her undoubted icon is Radcliffe, who has tipped her to be a star. "No question about it. She's been great, helping me financially through her award scheme and emailing me advice. She also invited me to her house for tea but we avoided talking about athletics, it was just a good gossip. She is such an inspiration."

City law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner facilitates Pidgeon's overseas training and she's also now Lottery-funded. "You really need help in this sport. It's not just a question of getting a new pair of trainers every now and then."

To compete in 2012 "would be amazing", says the personable Pidgeon. But, as Steve Cram says of her: "Being a promising youngster is one thing, but to deliver when there is some expectation will determine whether she has got what it takes to be a big success." So she needs to be a stayer in the gallop for gold. Form horse or dark horse? The next three years will prove whether this Pidgeon really is a high flyer.

British Olympic Association

The British Olympic Association are the National Olympic Committee for GB and Northern Ireland. They lead the nation's athletes at the summer, winter and youth Olympic Games. The BOA also deliver elite-level support services to Britain's Olympic athletes. For further information, go to: www.olympics.org.uk

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week